The Impotent Leader and The Legacy of the Church


Farewell Speech
Farewell Sermon
Presiding Bishop Church of Norway
Archbishop Church of Sweden
Legacy of the Church

How to Cite

Hallesby Norheim, B. E., & Haga, J. (2021). The Impotent Leader and The Legacy of the Church: The Farewell Sermon as a Bishop’s Last(ing) Act of Leadership. Scandinavian Journal for Leadership and Theology, 8.


When a leader leaves office, the leader becomes impotent, divested of power. This makes the actual moment of farewell a particularly interesting case study in leadership, as the farewell moment marks the transition of power from one leader to another. Many leaders use the point of departure as an opportunity to articulate the legacy of the institution they leave behind. This article offers a rhetorical and theological analysis of the farewell sermon delivered by former presiding bishop of the Church of Norway, Helga Haugland Byfuglien in January 2020, and a shorter, comparative analysis of the equivalent farewell sermon of the former Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Anders Wejryd (2014). The article analyses how Byfuglien and Wejryd conceptualize the legacy of the church with the use of epideictic and deliberative rhetoric (rhetorical analysis) and discuss what kind of legacy (theological analysis and discussion) they promote. The article argues that both Byfuglien and Wejryd use the farewell sermon as a rhetorical opportunity to articulate the church's legacy for the future, although their own formal power to execute that legacy is coming to an end. Byfuglien appeals to a diaconal vision of the church's legacy, with a tendency to emphasize the church`s welcoming and inclusive character. Wejryd addresses the current ecclesiological situation in more detail. By assessing the church`s numerical decline and changed societal status as a crisis, he mainly appeals to the church's missional legacy. The article concludes that the farewell sermons of both Byfuglien and Wejryd may be interpreted as a sort of inheritance dispute, or better heritage dispute: In their farewell sermons, the departing bishops present their last(ing) act of leadership, appealing to the audience to commit to a particular vision of the church's legacy.


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